Sen. Ted Stevens, one of 18 Republican Senators running for reelection this year, was indicted today by a federal grand jury for seven felony counts of making false statements.
The 28-page indictment charged that the Alaska Republican "knowingly and intentionally sought to conceal and cover up his receipt of things of value by filing Financial Disclosure Forms that contained false statements and omissions" regarding $250,000 in gifts of value.
"Senator Stevens accepted gifts from a privately held company called VECO," said Matthew Friedrich, acting assistant attorney general of the Justice Department's criminal division, describing myriad renovations to Stevens' house that the oil services company VECO paid for.
These included, Friedrich said, renovations to Steven's home such as a first floor, a wrap-around deck, "a new Viking gas range, a tool storage cabinet and an automobile exchange in which Senator Stevens received a new vehicle worth far more than what he provided in exchange" -- namely a 1999 Land Rover Discovery swapped out for Stevens' 1964 1/2 Ford Mustang and $5,000.
"These items were not disclosed on Senator Stevens' financial disclosure forms, which he filed under penalties of perjury either as gifts or as liabilities," the Justice Department official said.
Stevens, 84, used "his official position and his office on behalf of VECO,'' read the indictment.
However, said Friedrich, although "at the same time that Senator Stevens was receiving these things of value over that same time period, he was also being solicited by VECO to do certain things which he or his staff on occasion did, the indictment does not allege a quid pro quo. Bribery is not charged in this case. … Bribery requires proof of a specific agreement of a quid pro quo, this for that. This indictment does not allege such an agreement."
Calls and e-mails to Stevens' attorney, Brendan V. Sullivan Jr., were not immediately returned, but Stevens issued a statement through his office, saying, "It saddens me to learn that these charges have been brought against me. I have never knowingly submitted a false disclosure form required by law as a U.S. Senator."
"I am innocent of these charges and intend to prove that," he added.
In keeping with Senate Republican rules for indicted officials, Stevens has stepped down from his leadership positions as the top Republican on both the Senate Commerce Committee and the Appropriations Committee's defense appropriations subcommittee, though he remains a member of those panels.
The former chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee has held his Senate seat since 1968 and has become known for his temper, his Incredible Hulk ties, and for the profligate spending he showered upon Alaska, perhaps best encapsulated by the infamous "bridge to nowhere." Stevens is only the 11th sitting U.S. senator in American history to be indicted.
Stevens' GOP colleagues voiced support for him Tuesday afternoon. "I've known Ted Stevens for 28 years and I've always known him to be impeccably honest," said Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Penn. "I don't know that there's a stronger comment to be made than that."
Said Sen. John Warner, R-Va., "he's a hero and a fighter. He's been a fighter for this country's interests and a fighter for his state ever since and a strong leader in the Senate, so all I can say is, I hope that this will turn out fairly and consistent with the law."